The one year game develpoment duel



Thinking About the Cost of Art

I’ve ventured into the unknown while working on my game — I don’t know what art costs. This is becoming an issue because I have all sorts of grand ideas for levels, characters and features. It is clear that art, or more directly my budget, will be the deciding factor on the scope of my game.

For our competition, Chris and I each have a $25,000 budget. I’m planning to spend roughly $20,000 on art, and to leave $5,000 for sound, music and miscellaneous. I know I’ll need an animator and an illustrator, so the actual scope of my project will be comparable to the amount of work one artist can do for $10,000. Let’s try to find out what I can expect from an animator.

Cost per Hour

The closest attempt I have seen to set my expectations can be found at How Much Do Sprites Cost. That article puts a 500-frame game by a skilled artist at $7,000 – $20,000. Aside from that figure, I have also found $20-$40/hour to be a common range seen on /r/gamedevclassifieds. With that in mind, let’s use 500-frames and $30/hour as our two scenarios for the rest of this article.

Time per Sprite

Finding an answer to this question is nearly impossible as it will differ per artist and job. I’ve found vague discussions indicating somewhere in the 4-8 hour range. Or, if you take the “How Much Do Sprites Cost” article above, one sprite is put at 2-3 hours of work. Add on 30-60 minutes for each frame, and it seems reasonable to that a 64×64 sprite with 12 frames of animation could be completed in a day.

What I Can Get

Scenario 1: Assuming that I can get 500 frames for my budget.

Each unit has to walk in two directions and attack in two directions. At a minimum of 4 frames per action, we’re looking at 16 frames. That would put me at about 32 sprites

Scenario 2: Assuming 30/hour and 8 hours per sprite.

308 = $240 / day = 1 sprite / day.

$10,000 / $240 = 42 sprites


30 or 40 sprites is definitely less than I was hoping for. Even if my numbers are off, it is probably safe to assume I won’t get more than 80 sprites. So, my grand ideas of 50 enemies, 20 unit progressions and 3 playable characters are pushing the limits. I’ll have to think about what the game would look like with 40 enemies and 15 types of unit progression.

Translate to Game Design

The main purpose of this article is to try to fill in character level tress for my game.


I’m trying to determine how flexible to make the code, and to cut certain features if I know they won’t fit into the budget.


While it is useful to try to narrow down the scope of my game, it is important to recognize that I am basically guessing. I absolutely have to talk to an artist. It may turn out that the low res sprites I want can be done in half the time. If that is the case, my game design and planning will completely change.

2 of you did not hold your tongue!
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